While I feel for Henry Sarria’s necessary emigration from his native Cuba (“A T-shirt With a History, Daily Nexus, April 30), I feel that I must point out that one ex-patriot cannot speak for an entire dispersed nation of people.
When I spent three months researching U.S.-Cuban relations last spring in Washington D.C., I certainly ran into a number of organizations, politicians and individuals who felt quite similarly to Mr. Sarria. I respect that – my middle-class, educated self would not be content living under a dictator. That being said, I need to stress that there are many Cubans who do admire Che Guevara and, even, Fidel Castro.
I went to Havana last May and had an opportunity to speak with many “Habaneros.” Contrary to popular belief, I did not come into contact with anyone who was afraid to speak their political minds – quite the opposite. Sometimes I was craving a walk by myself along the Malecon just to take in the atmosphere, and I couldn’t get 10 steps before a local stopped me to chat. They would ask me questions about my government’s policies and life in the United States and then would offer their versions of the topics. Many would blatantly tell me, “Your country is better – I would like to go there,” while many others would say that they support the revolution. I am sure that those who support Castro are, mostly, those who were desperate and marginalized under Fulgencio Batista. Those who thrived in Batista’s U.S.-supported regime obviously tried to take off for Miami as soon as he was out of power. My point is that while we have a definite love for democracy, I feel that it is dangerous to paint Castro’s Cuba as another North Korea where everyone is desolate, scared and fervent.
Furthermore, as I was working with communities in Havana to build playgrounds, I encountered many Cuban workers who wore their red Guevara “hasta la revolucion siempre” shirts and even offered to bring some for visitors.
Though I will never claim to be a Guevara expert, I do find the topic very interesting. When he and Castro had an ideological falling out – it was my understanding that Castro had a more totalitarian vision than Guevara did – Guevara was temporarily removed from Cuban revolutionary history. It was only after his death that he was used as a national hero. Now, no block in Havana is complete without a picture of Guevara painted on the wall. The propaganda is immense.
I would never argue against or deny those, especially in the exiled community, who feel that “to a Cuban, someone wearing a Guevara T-shirt is the equivalent of someone wearing a Hitler T-shirt.” However, since Cubam issues are generally considered in black and white, I feel obligated to make sure that Americans understand that all Cubans do not feel one way or another. The sooner we can understand this, the better intellectually prepared everyone will be to deal with Castro’s death in the next decade or so.
Katrina Hale is a senior political science major.